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Simple and Standard… or Custom and Complex

Custom configurations lead to the ability to do more and increase the value of the application/ service to the user

Over the years, IT has had the ability to customize the heck out of applications. Even the industry enabled this addiction to feature creep. Vendors asked what new button, bell, and whistle customers wanted and then delivered what they could. Customization became a hallmark of IT trying to ultimately please the customer and meet their ever-changing requirements.

Custom configurations lead to the ability to do more and increase the value of the application/ service to the user. As the number of customizations increased, so did the level of complexity. Eventually, that very flexibility and customization starts to work against the value of the customizations themselves.

There is another nasty side effect with customization. It creates a sort of lock-in. Essentially, the further a solution is customized, the more unique it is and the harder it is to leverage alternative solutions. The customizations create such a unique solution that alternative solutions struggle to compete against. That is, unless they offer the exact same features and functionality...and customization options.

In the end, significant customization is ultimately only possible when using applications that are run internally. When moving to a shared or cloud environment, the level of potential customization drops precipitously. For many, this presents a significant hurdle to moving into a new solution like cloud (ie: SaaS).

The question really comes down to: What is the true value of the customizations? Are they providing more value than their cost? And is this really what customers want? Here at HP Discover in Barcelona, the very issue became a hot button of discussion. Ultimately, the outcome was: Customers want simple and standard over custom and complex. There is a difference between want, need and should.

Bottom Line: In IT, we've had the opportunity to customize the heck out of applications. Why? Because we could and truly believed it was valuable. That may have been the case in the past, but today, it is about business value. And there are larger considerations (like alternatives, agility and choice) that play a more significant role in our decisions.

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More Stories By Tim Crawford

Tim Crawford is an internationally renowned thought leader in the areas of IT transformation, innovation and cloud computing. Tim has served as CIO and other senior IT leadership roles with global organizations such as Konica Minolta/ All Covered, Stanford University, Knight-Ridder, Philips Electronics, and National Semiconductor. Tim regularly speaks at industry conferences, is well published and often quoted by business and technology publications. Areas of expertise include strategy, mergers & acquisitions, cloud computing, infrastructure, operations and core applications. Tim serves as an advisor to global enterprises, government agencies, venture capital firms and startups. Tim’s approach focuses on driving business value through key game-changing strategies. Tim received an MBA in International Business with Honors and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems both from Golden Gate University.